Secrets of Pitching the Perfect Guest Post

03

OCTOBER 2016

When my daughter first got her driver’s license, she was excited about driving any chance she had. I was excited, too, because she ran my errands. She didn’t like picking up milk and eggs from the Piggly Wiggly or getting the van’s oil changed, and I was worried about a new driver behind my van’s wheel, but we did it because it was a win-win deal. She drove more and I didn’t have to “Shop the Pig.” Of all the types of content marketing, the guest post is the win-win deal. And contrary to rumors, the guest post isn’t dead. In fact, of all the content creation marketing, the guest post might be the prize-winner of ’em all. Whether you write it yourself or have your web content writing service write it, learn these secrets to pitching the perfect guest post and you’ll win that top prize.

Secret one: keep your eye on the conversion prize

The guest post is more than a popularity contest. Yes, your blog will receive more traffic. Sure, you’ll become better known. But the whole point of a guest post is conversions. Usually in content marketing, a conversion is a sale or an email signup; however, for in the case of a guest post, the email signup is the only realistic goal. Peter Sandeen writes on SmartBlogger.com that chances are your guest post’s readers are going to click on your call to action (CTA) link and visit your blog once, so the link needs to send visitors to an amazing landing page.

Your landing page should be simple and completely focused on two things: capturing the visitor’s email and pushing your free ebook, tip sheet or list of amazing stuff. Other than the freebie promotion, the email optin, and your logo, you shouldn’t have anything else on the page. Don’t link to your home page. Don’t include a nav bar. The only way visitors leave your landing page is with the optin or typing something in the browser’s address bar.

The last thing you need for this secret: analytics. Make sure you have whatever tracking measures you use in place for this landing page. Do not use the landing page for anything else, unless you can measure that traffic and its source.

Tips keeping your eye on the conversion prize:

  1. Plan to push guest blog visitors to a landing page for conversions
  2. Focus your landing page on the conversions and nothing else
  3. Figure out how you will measure the conversions

 

Secret two: Select your target blogs

Edgar Alan Poe wrote a Think of selecting your target blogs in a tactical sense: where would a guest post be the most effective in bringing you conversions? Think about the number of readers a blog has, the number of social media followers, the level of influence the site owner has and whether the blog has anything to do with your niche. If your blog is for Dan’s Heating and Cooling and you’re pitching a U.S. blog writing service’s blog, that’s probably not a good fit. Readers at the blog or essay writing service are more interested in semicolons than copper pipes and are unlikely to click on your call to action and convert.

Select a handful of these blogs and follow the blog on social media and online. Read the posts to get a feel for the topics and the writers’ style. Read the comments and see how readers react to posts and how authors respond. Leave comments, too, and see if you can build a rapport with a blog owner. After a good week or two, pick a few that will be a good fit for what you do, but not an exact match. If I were Dan of Dan’s Heating and Cooling, I might choose a DIY blog or another service provider’s blog, like an electrician or plumber. Dan could write about a cooling system’s electrical needs or how homeowners can perform simple maintenance tasks on their heaters. This subtle mismatch is on purpose: readers of the target blog have no reason to visit your blog if your niches are just the same. A slight mismatch will bring you readers who are looking for something new, keep them coming back, but not take away from the host blog’s readership.

Winnow down your target blog list to your top five, and rank those. You’ll target them, one at a time, in that order. Hunt for the editors’ names and emails. Check their policies for guest blog post guidelines. Review those guidelines to keep them in mind for your pitch.

Tips for selecting target blogs:

  1. Study the target blogs’ analytics to ensure a rich pool of potential conversions
  2. Read the blogs to understand topics, writers, readers and responsiveness
  3. Find blogs that have similar niche as yours, but not an exact match, to entice people to visit and convert
  4. Pick and rank your top five blogs, get contact information and guidelines, if any

Secret three: Select topics focused on conversions

The topic you choose should be the lovechild of: the target blog’s best topics and your blog’s best topics. In other words, it shouldn’t look exactly like either parent, but it should carry the best keywords from both. That topic should stand out as interesting to the target blog’s readers, but interesting enough to check out your blog and keep coming back.

Make sure your topics contain the keywords and long-tail keywords that you or your web content writing service’s writers have developed for your blog. SEMRush’s content manager, Anatasia, recommended FaqFox as an online tool for this purpose. Type in your keyword and the target site’s URL to discover the posts about your keyword and how popular it is with the target blog’s readers.

Counterintuitively, your topic should be geared toward beginners. Beginners are looking for instructions and how-tos; they’re also the visitors who are more likely to convert.

Make sure that your topic lends itself to some kind of freebie. The freebie can’t be the one generic ebook you paid your essay writing service to pen for you. It must be aligned with your guest post’s topic and be something that readers will crave enough to give you their email addresses.

Tips for selecting your topics:

  1. Choose popular topics from your blog and the target blog, but offer a twist
  2. Use your keywords to guide you to the best topics
  3. Skew it toward beginners and their needs, so they’ll convert
  4. Choose a freebie that is a natural extension of the guest blog’s topic, so visitors convert

Secret four: Gather your clips

Most top blog owners and editors will want to see writing samples, or clips, before approving you to guest post. It’s unwise to just send the editor to your blog to hunt around, but rather show that person your best work. Even if you don’t have much writing experience, you’ll want to look back on what you or your essay writing service has written and pick the top three pieces. When picking these out, select the ones with the best writing, with topics close to your target blogs’ topics and those with the best reader responses. It’s not strictly necessary to create .pdf copies of these posts; some editors want attachments, others links. I prefer links because they take me to the live site and I don’t risk downloading risky attachments. If the target editor or blog owner has posted guidelines, follow those.

Tips for gathering your clips:

  1. Pick three of your top posts
  2. Refer to target blog’s guidelines about attaching writing samples or providing links

Secret five: Address the right person

Remember how you tracked down the editor’s name and email address? This is truly a secret for success, so listen up: Send your pitch only to editors you can name and for whom you have a working email address. Do not send it addressed to editor, to whom it may concern, or sir/madam. Really. Hunt them down on social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn. Want to make it out of the slush pile? Do your homework. A personal pitch, sent to the correct person, will be read; whereas, generic pitches may be labeled as spam. Address your target person with a courtesy title and last name, not first name (i.e. Dear Ms. Smith, Dear Mr. Jones – not Dear Karen or Hey Steve).

Tips to address the right person:

  1. Have the person’s first name, last name and correct email
  2. Use courtesy titles

Secret six: Write the pitch

Like everyone else, editors are pressed for time. Put yourself in the editor’s shoes: what do you want to see in a pitch? As an editor, I’ll tell you: capture the editor’s interest, don’t waste the editor’s time, woo the editor and tell the editor what you want. Impress the editor.

  • Capture the editor’s interest. Write a catchy subject line. Need help? Try CoSchedule’s free headline tool.
    • Keep it short – about 20 characters
    • Include your keyword
  • Don’t waste the editor’s time. Keep it short.
    • Editors are pressed for time and are unlikely read your lengthy prose, no matter how compelling
    • Short writing is good writing; pithy and direct.
  • Woo the editor. Tell the editor what she wants to hear – stuff about her and her work.
    • Don’t go overboard, but show the editor you know her. Tell her which of her posts you like best and why.
    • Tell her why you follow her blog and her social media posts.
    • Remind her about how you’ve interacted with her in blog comments or on Twitter.
  • Tell the editor what you want. Pitch your topics and headlines
    • Segue from talking about her to how your guest post will fit in well with what she’s doing.
    • Propose your topic and offer headlines from which she might choose.
    • Explain how this post might help her out, too. Really, your only selling point is a day off. You might persuade the editor that your slightly different blog will bring her new traffic, but it’s a tough sell.
  • Impress the editor. Explain your qualifications.
    • Explain that you’re qualified (if you are), or be up front about how you’re a new writer, but a good writer.
    • If you use a web content service, be upfront about that, too. It’s better for the editor to know this from the beginning and you can have a conversation about bylines and credit.
    • Tell her about your blog and link to it. Explain your audience and your traffic.
    • Attach your clips or insert your links.
    • Thank her for my time
    • End with a call to action. Really.

You’ve got three minutes. Go.

Tips to write the pitch:

  1. Capture the editor’s interest
  2. Don’t waste the editor’s time
  3. Woo the editor
  4. Tell the editor what you want
  5. Impress the editor

Secret seven: Be polite and professional

If you’ve ever taken a cross-country car ride with an elementary-school-aged child, you know what she’ll begin to say after the first hour: “Are we there yet?” No. “How ‘bout now?” No. “Are we there yet?”

You’re excited about your guest post opportunity, and you should be. However, don’t nag the editor about opening your email and don’t stick a read receipt on it, either. Follow up after a week. You can follow up again at two or three weeks, but after that, let it go and move down your target blog list.

“The topic you choose should be the lovechild of: the target blog’s best topics and your blog’s best topics. In other words, it shouldn’t look exactly like either parent, but it should carry the best keywords from both”

Tips to be polite and professional:

  1. Be patient, not a pest
  2. Accept feedback and rejection like a pro – with gratitude
  3. Keep your chin up and keep pitching

My final tip is to keep in mind why you’re doing this: conversions. Two great side benefits are also worthwhile: you’ll make great connections with leaders in your niche and you’ll become a better writer.

Special thanks to:

  • John Morrow at com who taught me that the guest post isn’t dead, despite Google’s own blog to the contrary.
  • Peter Sandeen at com. I’m pretty sure I don’t suck.
  • Anatasia via Marc’s Blog, who gave me the recommendation for FaqFox. It’s now one of my bookmarks, so thanks!
  • Ramsay Taplin at Copyblogger who gave me the great insight about targeting beginners with guest blogging content.
  • Robert Parmer at Entrepreneur who tells straight. It’s clear he’s a public relations professional and journalist. If you’re not, read his piece to understand Parmer’s world and how your guest post fits into it.

Diane Trim

Content secret keeper

Diane has been a journalist, technical writer, freelance content writer, editor and teacher. She knows that editors want what everyone else wants: an easy, peaceful life. Her best guest post secret? Think about how to make your target blog editor’s life easy. Make sure your pitch is (nearly) error-free. Ask a writer you respect to read it and offer feedback. Sending a polished guest post pitch will let the editor know that she won’t have to spend hours reshaping your work. You’re welcome.

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